Sundance 2022: Some of what we’ll be watching at this year’s festival, and it’s a lot.

Having switched from in-person to completely virtual, audiences of Sundance 2022 will have the opportunity to see a plethora of entertainment that will terrify, tantalize, and remind you of why we love storytelling so much. From horror to drama, television series to shorts, documentaries to VR experiences, we’ll be watching as much as our eyes can consume from January 20-30th. Things are finding distribution left and right, with is always great news. That means even if you miss something during the festival, it will most likely be coming to a theater or streaming platform very soon.

There is something for everyone. Genre favorite filmmakers, writers, actors, and wearers of all the hats,  Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, are bringing their latest film Something In The Dirt. Cooper Raif‘s newest Cha Cha Real Smooth is one we’re stoked for. His debut feature Shithouse was one of the most accurate films about college life I’ve ever seen. The shorts lineup this year is bound to blow you away. Do not overlook them, I beg you. There are feature documentaries on Kanye West and Princess Diana, the rise of TikTok, and Slave to Sirens (the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East).

Without further ado, here is a list of some of the amazing content we’re excited about this year.


 U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Cha Cha Real Smooth / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Cooper Raiff, Producers: Dakota Johnson, Ro Donnelly, Erik Feig, Jessica Switch, Cooper Raiff) — A directionless college graduate embarks on a relationship with a young mom and her teenage daughter while learning the boundaries of his new bar mitzvah party-starting gig. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Vanessa Burghardt, Evan Assante, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann. World Premiere.

Besides Raiff being an obvious phenom, I suspect this one will hit harder for those with children on the spectrum. I’m particularly excited for Vanessa Burghardt’s performance, as she is on the spectrum herself. Representation matters, across the board.

Dual / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Riley Stearns, Producers: Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Lee Kim, Riley Stearns, Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray) — After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah commissions a clone of herself to ease the loss for her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempt to have her clone decommissioned fails, and leads to a court-mandated duel to the death. Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale. World Premiere.

This plot sounds like something out of West World and Doctor Who. Did I just mention those because of Paul and Gillan? Happy coincidence.


U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

I Didn’t See You There / U.S.A. (Director: Reid Davenport, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. World Premiere.

I fell into advocacy for those with disabilities when my son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I have a feeling that this film will give me a deeper understanding of not only my son’s perspective on society but the ever-present need for awareness and empathy.


WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Brian And CharlesU.K. (Director: Jim Archer, Screenwriters: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Producer: Rupert Majendie)  — A story of friendship, love, and letting go. And a 7ft tall robot that eats cabbages. A comedy shot in documentary format. Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard. World Premiere.

Prediction: Brian And Charles will be one of the most endearing films of the entire festival. This unlikely buddy comedy is sure to capture everyone’s heart.

 

Leonor Will Never DiePhilippines (Director and Screenwriter: Martika Ramirez Escobar, Producers: Monster Jimenez, Mario Cornejo)  — Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay. Cast: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon. World Premiere.

As a writer, I’m selfishly looking forward to this. There’s always a bit of myself in my fiction, and who wouldn’t want to become an action hero?


WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Calendar GirlsSweden (Directors, Screenwriters, and Producers: Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen) — A coming-of-golden-age look at Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60, shaking up the outdated image of “the little old lady,” and calling for everyone to dance their hearts out, while they still can. World Premiere.

Dancing since the age of three, this 41-year-old is looking for a few new role models.

 

Nothing Compares / Ireland, U.K. (Director: Kathryn Ferguson, Producers: Eleanor Emptage, Michael Mallie) — The story of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and subsequent exile from the pop mainstream. Focusing on Sinéad’s prophetic words and deeds from 1987 to 1993, the film reflects on the legacy of this fearless trailblazer through a contemporary feminist lens. World Premiere.


NEXT

Something In The Dirt / U.S.A. (Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Screenwriter: Justin Benson, Producers: David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson)  — When neighbors John and Levi witness supernatural events in their Los Angeles apartment building, they realize documenting the paranormal could inject some fame and fortune into their wasted lives. An ever-deeper, darker rabbit hole, their friendship frays as they uncover the dangers of the phenomena, the city, and each other. Cast: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead. World Premiere. Fiction.

Genre fans will recognize these household names for their spellbinding skills. I’ve yet to watch away from their films without chills or an audible “WTF.”

The Cathedral / Italy, U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Ricky D’Ambrose, Producer: Graham Swon) — An only child’s account of an American family’s rise and fall over two decades. Cast: Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Geraldine Singer, William Bednar-Carter. North American Premiere. Fiction.


MIDNIGHT

Hatching / Finland (Director: Hanna Bergholm, Screenwriter: Ilja Rautsi, Producers: Mika Ritalahti, Nico Ritalahtit) — While desperately trying to please her demanding mother, a young gymnast discovers a strange egg. She tucks it away and keeps it warm, but when it hatches, what emerges shocks everyone. Cast: Jani Volanen, Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila. World Premiere. Fiction.

 

PIGGY / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Carlota Pereda, Producers: Merry Colomer, David Atlan-Jackson) — Sara deals with constant teasing from girls in her small town. But it comes to an end when a stranger kidnaps her tormentors. Sara knows more than she’s saying and must decide between speaking up and saving the girls or saying nothing to protect the strange man who spared her. Cast: Laura Galán. World Premiere. Fiction.

Speak No Evil / Denmark (Director and Screenwriter: Christian Tafdrup, Screenwriter: Mads Tafdrup, Producer: Jacob Jarek) — A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness. Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev. World Premiere. Fiction.


KIDS

Maika / Vietnam (Director and Screenwriter: Ham Tran, Producers: Jenni Trang Le, Duy Ho, Anderson Le, Bao Nguyen) — After a meteor falls to earth, 8-year-old Hung meets an alien girl from the planet Maika, searching for her lost friend. As Hung helps her otherworldly friend search, the alien inadvertently helps Hung make new friends and heal a broken heart. But danger lurks everywhere… Cast: Phu Truong, Diep Anh Tru, Tin Tin, Ngoc Tuong, Kim Nha. World Premiere. Fiction.


INDIE EPISODIC PROGRAM

The Dark Heart / Sweden (Director: Gustav Möller, Screenwriter: Oskar Söderlund, Producers: Anna Carlsten, Caroline Landerberg) — Sweden: in a mythological landscape, search parties roam through forests of spruce, secret conversations are whispered in open fields, and verbal duels fought on narrow country roads. A story of family feuds, inheritances, and forbidden love. Cast: Aliette Opheim, Clara Christiansson Drake, Gustav Lindh, Peter Andersson. World Premiere. Fiction. 

Sweden’s true crime game is above and beyond. The US had already remade series like The Killing and The Bridge. Sundance 2022 audiences can dive headfirst into The Dark Heart. The series is a five-part psychological drama-thriller about how an old family feud clashes with a young, forbidden love story, leading to a tragedy with a deadly outcome, ultimately solved by a private investigator who gets obsessed with the case. The story is based on journalist Joakim Palmkvist’s book “The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator”, which delves into the story about how a mysterious missing person’s case is investigated and solved by a local Missing People-volunteer involved in the searches.


INTERNATIONAL LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

Warsha / France/Lebanon (Director and Screenwriter: Dania Bdeir, Producer: Coralie Dias) — A Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut volunteers to cover a shift on one of the most dangerous cranes, where he is able to find his freedom. Cast: Khansa. World Premiere.

Once in a blue moon, a short film takes your breath away and Warsha might be that film in 2022.


U.S LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

Huella / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Gabriela Ortega, Producers: Helena Sardinha, Rafael Thomaseto) — When the death of her grandmother unleashes a generational curse, a disenchanted flamenco dancer resigned to a desk job is forced to experience the five stages of grief through a visit from her female ancestors. Cast: Shakira Barrera, Denise Blasor, Carla Valentine. 


U.S. NONFICTION SHORT FILMS

Long Line of Ladies / United States (Directors: Rayka Zehtabchi, Shaandiin Tome, Producers: Garrett Schiff, Pimm Tripp-Allen, Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis, Dana Kurth) — A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk and Yurok tribes of Northern California. World Premiere. DAY ONE


For Sundance 2022 full line-up, tickets, and more click here!


 

Interview with Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson for ‘SYNCHRONIC’

Synchronic

Synopsis:
When New Orleans paramedics and longtime best friends Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) are called to a series of bizarre, gruesome accidents, they chalk it up to the mysterious new party drug found at the scene. But after Dennis’s oldest daughter suddenly disappears, Steve stumbles upon a terrifying truth about the supposed psychedelic that will challenge everything he knows about reality—and the flow of time itself.

Here is our great friend and colleague Matthew Schuchman interviewing Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson about their newest film Synchronic. Wait until you hear about how they split the creative duties, how their epic films come to fruition, and that they’re making a new movie right now! Enjoy!

You can read more about the film in Liz’s review of Synchronic. Stay tuned to Reel News Daily for the latest info.

In Theaters & Drive-Ins October 23rd

Directed by: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless)

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, and Ally Ioannides

Review: ‘Synchronic’ will surprise you time and time again.

SYNCHRONIC

Synopsis:
When New Orleans paramedics and longtime best friends Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) are called to a series of bizarre, gruesome accidents, they chalk it up to the mysterious new party drug found at the scene. But after Dennis’s oldest daughter suddenly disappears, Steve stumbles upon a terrifying truth about the supposed psychedelic that will challenge everything he knows about reality—and the flow of time itself.

At this point, all I really need to see to get excited is “A Moorhead and Benson Film” on my screen. You literally never know what you’re going to get except that it will most likely make you question your own reality. Synchronic is yet another visual and storytelling mindfuck. After the success of Spring and The Endless, Jaime Dornan and Anthony Mackie headline their newest trippy installment. The camera work is as dizzying as the plot. You are plunged into the darkness immediately. The editing is a damn triumph. You cannot look away in fear of missing the smallest clue. When the plot is actually revealed, an entirely new layer of insanity is unleashed. It is a head trip of epic proportions. It’s what fellow Whovians like to call “Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey”. Now that my nerd is sufficiently showing, I can gladly report that the awesome flows throughout the film will nuance and heart. These men are flawed. Fully fleshed out human beings with serious issues. Throw in a mystery drug that’s is traumatizing users, oftentimes killing them in the most bizarre ways and you’ve gone from drama to sci-fi spectacular. Synchronic is beyond engrossing for all of the reasons above… and so much more.

Dornan is great as the privileged guy who takes his family for granted. When his daughter disappears into thin air, the performance ramps up. Mackie has the challenge of not only portraying a man whose body is failing him but to convey the magnitude of Synchronic to the audience. Both performances give us very different things. Their chemistry is spot on. But it is Mackie that must be the driving force for Moorhead and Benson’s creation. Their films are so carefully crafted in story and visual treats that we are compelled to sit up a little straighter as we audibly exclaim, ‘WFT!” That’s the beauty of this team. The breadcrumbs are there. The social commentary is unmissable. Synchronic will be lauded as another fantastic notch in the belt of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, there is no doubt about that. It may be the film that moves them from indie genre filmmaker crushes to household names.

In Theaters & Drive-Ins October 23rd

Directed by: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless)

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, and Ally Ioannides

 

Coming Soon… Matthew Schuchman‘s interview with Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.

Stay tuned to Reel News Daily for the inside info on SYNCHRONIC!

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Podcast Interview: Jeremy Gardner, Christian Stella, and Brea Grant share all the gory and gorgeous details of ‘AFTER MIDNIGHT’ (Something Else).

AFTER MIDNIGHT (Something Else) Podcast

AFTER MIDNIGHT (formerly titled Something Else) was one of the most unique selections in this year’s festival. Both a monster movie and a love story, the film’s deliberate structure is a standout all on its own. The writing is fresh and funny and the use of light makes it a joy to watch. There are brilliantly theatrical moments. I believe this film would actually translate incredibly well onstage! When you see it, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a complete compliment. I sat down with co-directors Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner (who also stars and wrote the script) and star Brea Grant to chat all things AFTER MIDNIGHT. How did the script come about? What in the world were they thinking with certain choices? What did Brea think the first time she read the script?  We talk favorite movie monsters, and how the filmmakers of one of my favorite films The Endless, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, got on board. You can read my full review of AFTER MIDNIGHT here, but give a listen to the awesome time we all had together. Be warned, when I walked into the room, Christian, Jeremy, and Brea had all been in the super cool bathroom of our interview room at The Roxy Hotel taking a photo, and I’m disappointed in myself for not getting in on the selfie action on my way out the door. Also, when you hear us refer/talk to “Ted”, we’re actually talking to We Are Still Here and Mohawk filmmaker Ted Geoghegan who just so happened to be in our presence. No big deal. Anyhow, without further ado, here is our podcast talking all things Tribeca, monsters, and AFTER MIDNIGHT.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR(S)

Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella are the filmmakers behind the indie zombie film The Battery and survival comedy Tex Montana Will Survive! Lifelong friends, both directors were born and raised in Florida.

FILM INFO
  • Section:
    Midnight
  • Year:
    2019
  • Length:
    83 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
  • Premiere:
    World
  • Connect:
CAST & CREDITS
  • Director:
    Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella
  • Producer:
    David Lawson Jr., Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Arvind Harinath
  • Screenwriter:
    Jeremy Gardner
  • Cinematographer:
    Christian Stella
  • Editor:
    Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner
  • Executive Producer:
    Venu Kunnappilly
  • Cast:
    Jeremy Gardner. Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski, Justin Benson, Ashley Song, Nicola Masciotra

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Something Else’ is aptly named.

SOMETHING ELSE

The Midnight section at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival gives us Something Else. A story about Hank, whose longtime girlfriend Abby abruptly leaves him, but with a lot of extra flair in the plot. The editing is spectacular. Crisp still camera images set against a bleakly lit Hank, make for a perfect early jump scare. Then you catch on that’s it’s a repeated theme. Abby equals brightness. No Abby equals darkness… and a monster at the front door. The music has a heavily Gen X quality. The daytime dialogue (once Abby is absent) feels reminiscent of early Kevin Smith, particularly from everyone around Hank. This gives teeth to the naturalistic performances from a small cast. Classic tropes weave into the darker scenes and then the film becomes something altogether different. Something Else is exactly that. It’s like two films in one. It’s a monster movie and a serious relationship drama which incidentally includes a 15-minute single camera take of dialogue. Something Else is aptly named and unexpected on all fronts.

SOMETHING ELSE

For small-town bar owner Hank (Jeremy Gardner), his 10-year relationship with Abby (Brea Grant) has been storybook-quality. Abby, however, wants more: marriage, to be exact, which Hank doesn’t seem ready to initiate anytime soon. As a result, she leaves him without so much as a note or any subsequent communication. Hank is crushed. Even worse, Abby’s departure seemingly triggers the arrival of an unseen monster that claws at Hank’s front door at night. As the nocturnal threat intensifies, Hank must figure out how to not only save his relationship but also himself.

Review: ‘ The Endless’ is an unsettling trip.

THE ENDLESS

Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Written by Justin Benson

Starrs Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Emily Montague, Lew Temple, Tate Ellington, James Jordan

Synopsis: Following their Lovecraftian modern cult classic SPRING, acclaimed filmmakers Moorhead and Benson return with this mind-bending thriller that follows two brothers who receive a cryptic video message inspiring them to revisit the UFO death cult they escaped a decade earlier. Hoping to find the closure that they couldn’t as young men, they’re forced to reconsider the cult’s beliefs when confronted with unexplainable phenomena surrounding the camp. As the members prepare for the coming of a mysterious event, the brothers race to unravel the seemingly impossible truth before their lives become permanently entangled with the cult.

The Endless is a truly mindbending cinematic experience. The story alone is strange enough but when combined with breathtaking cinematography and some serious FX, you’ve got one of the coolest films so far this year. It addresses the question of cult mentality and what we consider to be familial relationships. The Endless begs for multiple viewings and not just because you think you might be able to figure out exactly what’s happening, though that’s definitely a reason. You’ll come back for cool visuals, solid performances from the entire cast, and really snappy dialogue. There is so much going on in this film that your brain may not be able to keep up with all the awesome being thrown its way. More than once, I literally said aloud, “How’d the hell did they do that?!” Benson and Moorhead have undoubtedly given us a cult classic. To think this was all done on a limited indie budget is downright mind-blowing. The Endless will surprise you and keep you on your toes until the very final frame.
Check out the trailer below:

Opening in New York April 6th and Los Angeles April 13th with a national rollout to follow

TRT: 112 minutes

Country: USA

Language: English

Directors: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Writer: Justin Benson

Cast: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Emily Montague, Lew Temple, Tate Ellington, James Jordan